Working From Home: Starting a Home Based Business

Something very exciting but can also be very nerve racking is deciding on the ‘perfect’ position to work from home.

This post is the second in a series. In the first post I shared my experiences with working from home.

In this post, I hope to give you some ideas for starting your own home based business. This will not be an exhaustive list. There are so many possibilities for home based business that I’ll do little more than scratch the surface. Again, this can hopefully get you thinking about what might work for you, in your situation.  Because I like having many income streams I’ve used all of these at some time or another in my work from home experience and at this point are doing several different things at once. My original post goes into more detail on this.

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Day Care

In my previous post, I shared that my first venture into having a home based business was a registered daycare. I think this is something that many moms find works well for them as a business. It tends to have low start up costs and allows playmates for their own children. In many areas there is a shortage of family care options.  Things that should be checked out before committing to a day care business include zoning regulations in your area, state registration or licensing requirements and your own ability to spend a long day caring not only for your own children but the children of others.  In your area, you may find that there is a need for offering before and after school care as opposed to all day care.  Or you might want to offer care during ‘off hours’.  If your spouse works the swing shift, it might make sense for you to do daycare on the same shift if there is a need for that in your area.  Think also about the type of day care you wish to offer. Will you have activities? Will you do pre-school? Will you take field trips? All of these things can have an impact on your start up costs, insurance requirements and possibly what you charge for your services. Finding someone that is currently operating the type of day care that you would like to have is a good idea.  When I was doing daycare I talked to several women who loved their daycare business and the passion they had was wonderful. Knowing these women was a blessing and encouragement. Having them in my life was very helpful on ‘tough’ days.

Cocoa

Homesteading Activities

I’m going to lump many ideas into this one category. Homesteading was once a way for people to get ‘free’ land and start a new life and adventure. Homesteading today isn’t about free land as much as a move toward doing it ourselves. Homesteading can occur on large farms, small acreage, suburban lots, and even high-rise apartments. It is as much of a state of mind as a physical state.  There are many money-making activities that you may consider that I believe fall under this category.

When we had been in Wyoming for about a year we realized that there were very few options for finding free-range or pastured poultry. As a result we decided to raise our own on our two acres. We intended to only buy a few to fill up our freezer I told a few people what we were planning and they asked if we could raise extra for them. Then I had 80 chickens ‘fall in my lap’.  So I told a few more people what we were doing and presold all of them. Then more people heard about it and asked if we could raise chickens for them so we ordered more chickens. By the time it was all said and done we had raised and processed somewhere around 300 chickens that summer using a combination of chicken tractors and free-ranging. It was crazy busy and sometimes not very enjoyable. We processed by hand which took forever. My husband worked four, ten hour shifts that year so he had a three day weekend every week and we processed on two of those days most weeks. That was the only summer we raised meat chickens on such a large scale.  Joe’s schedule changed back to a five day work week and there was not time for chicken processing. We still raise them for ourselves and a couple of other people (which helps with the cost of our chickens). The need for chickens is still here and if we could ever figure out a way to make the it work, I’d love to raise quality poultry for people again.  If this is something that you have the space for, interests you and there is a need in your community, I highly recommend the book Pastured Poultry Profits by Joel Salatin (that’s an affiliate link).

We also have chickens for egg laying and sell our surplus eggs. During the spring and early summer, when they are laying well, we tend to make a profit even after figuring in feed costs. During the winter when the laying slows down we don’t sell eggs (we have only enough for our needs) but the chickens keep eating (funny how that works) so our profits from earlier in the year are gone. Overall, we don’t really put money in our pockets but it helps. If you have space for raising laying hens and chose to use artificial light during the winter, you could have a decent amount of eggs almost year around. If you have enough space you could even do more than backyard chickens. I found lots of inspiration from this website when we were first learning about chickens.

If you have small to medium acreage your options are quite good on homesteading activities you can do to generate income. In addition to chickens you could consider raising seasonal turkeys. I have a friend with several acres who has recently started a goat business. She has many different breeds of goats that she raised to sell as pets and also meat. She’s recently looking into goats for fiber also. Is there a need for a raw milk dairy in your area? If you have the space, and your state rules allow, this could be a great option. In Joel Salatin’s books he writes about this being a great farm opportunity.  Again, looking at what the need is in your area can result in some great options for the right set up.

If you don’t have acreage there are still many things homesteading you can do from home. I have another friend who is making lotions, soaps and lip balms from home. Another friend teaches baking classes, in other people’s homes, for bread making (specifically sourdough). Another friend makes sauerkraut to sell at the farmers market. And yet another friend had a wonderful crop of raspberries this year that she sold at the farmers market, her garden also produced an incredible amount of squash. Someone who has a garden full of heirloom vegetables might start a business selling saved seeds. I read a blog and the author has a home business selling absolutely beautiful cutting boards and wooden trays.  Your hobby could be a source of income.  You could sell through farmers markets, bazaars, small stores or word of mouth. Depending on the product you could sell on line through an Etsy shop, eBay or other sources.  Be sure to check your local and state laws regarding any licensing or inspection you might need for your product. If making a food product you may need a commercial kitchen. There truly is no limit to the homesteading and craft items that could be a basis for a home business. Look for a need and fill it.

Speaking of eBay… a family member has a great home based business. He buys things at yard sales and resells. He has a knack for finding interesting and unique items. Sometimes he buys furniture that needs to be refinished, we have a beautiful desk that he redid. Sometimes he finds antiques or rare items. He resells on eBay or through local sources. He recently shared some of his finds with us and I’m amazed.   The saying one man’s junk is another man’s treasure can prove true at times. Even cleaning out your own house could result in hundreds to thousands of dollars worth of earnings.

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Computer Work

Technology has been wonderful and allows many of us to work from home doing ‘something’ over the computer.  Personally, I do virtual bookkeeping, virtual assisting (VA) and blogging over the computer.  I do the virtual bookkeeping as an employee of someone else but the other items I do as my own business.  When I first started thinking about doing VA work, I did lots of research.

What is a Virtual Assistant?  It is someone who provides administrative, technical or creative business support. While I do have lots of basic computer and office skills I wasn’t sure if I had the skills needed to find work. Fortunately the needs for virtual help vary greatly. What worked for me was to focus on the skills I have and find people who needed those skills. This website was a huge help to me in figuring out how a VA business would work for me and helped me focus on the skills I have. They also offer VA courses (for a fee) but I did not take those so can’t say if the information is helpful. Doing research and finding out what VA’s offered was very eye opening. While there are some VA’s that have highly specialized skills there are also others that can help with simple daily tasks. I’m a simple daily task VA. I help with social media, blog entries (I do not ‘ghost write’) and other miscellaneous projects. Having experience with my own blog was very helpful. And I do try to keep up on new things. I’ve take a few marketing classes that focused on online things. There is always more to learn!

If you are interested in this type of work, check out the information on the VA website to get some ideas what kind of VA work will go with your specific skills. I found work by approaching people I knew and letting them know what I was doing. I asked them to keep me in mind if they heard of anyone looking for a Virtual Assistant. Since one of the things that I do is social media, I’ll talk about that for a minute. Social media is a great way for small businesses to advertise. It is often free but does take time. Because of the time involved many businesses don’t utilize it as fully as they could. Almost any industry can use social media (Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In, Pinterest and even YouTube) but don’t because either they don’t have the time to do it or they aren’t sure how to go about it. Finding VA work focusing on this can be just a matter of scouting out local (or not) businesses that have an online presence (or want an online presence) and offering your services to help them build that presence. Chances are you won’t have full time work from one place but you might be able to create your own full time business by working for several different companies or individuals.  You would be surprised at the businesses that use social media; Realtor, clothing stores, furniture stores, artisans, restaurants, authors and more.  I’d also recommend that you be very detailed in what your services will provide. Will you only post for them or will you also answer questions and interact with their clients/customers? How many times a day will you post? Where will you get content? Ironing out all of the details in advance will be important. Keeping the line of communication open ongoing will also be important. It is their business that you are representing.

My own personal blog opened doors for me in my VA work and other areas of income. When I first started blogging I did it as a journal and used a free blog platform. In January of 2012 I decided to monetize this blog and transferred it over to my own site. There are expenses involved with that. I pay a yearly fee to keep the name of my blog (homespunoasis.com) and I also pay a monthly hosting fee to keep everything running like it should. Additional expenses can be incurred for special recipes, photography equipment, and more. Some blogs that do specialty things can be quite expensive to operate. Because I share about what is happening around here and pictures of the actual foods we eat my expenses are less than others. I did recently need a new camera when mine met an unhappy ending with the floor but that was the first camera in almost 5 years so that’s not too bad.

The question with blogging is can you make real money at it? I do know people who have been quite successful with their blog and do make excellent money. A few people might even start a simple blog that grows into something incredible and the next thing you know they have a their own TV show. There are so many different options for blogging; food blogs, education blogs, blogs that teach a certain industry, blogs about blogging, and many, many more. I did take a class a couple of years ago on blogging and what I learned from that class, in a nutshell, is that a blog is a wonderful tool to be able to develop a niche business. While one can make money on the blog itself, through affiliate relationships and ads, the best way to make money is through products offered on the blog.  I’ve written a few eBooks and do quite well selling them either individually or in bundle sales. A few of my blogging friends have developed online classes or memberships that have been very successful.  Finding a need and filling that need comes into play again here. If you’ve ever thought, “Oh, I wish I could learn such and such through an online class”. That might be something to consider.  Keep in mind, if you do decide to blog you are often opening yourself and your life up for review. Even if you blog about something non-personal you are in essence ‘putting yourself out there’. And if you find something that you can develop into a money making opportunity you will likely run into people who do not believe you should make money and that everything on the internet should be free. Blogging is not for the faint of heart!

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Direct Sales

This can be a wonderful home based business.  I’ve done direct sales a few different times in my life. The first time I didn’t get very far and didn’t actually figure out how to make it a business. And I didn’t treat it as a business. Plus it wasn’t something I was passionate about. I started it because it sounded like a great way to make money, not because I was interested in the product.  It didn’t last. My second attempt at direct sales I did treat like a business and worked hard at it. I was still not passionate about the product but did attempt to develop a passion. Unfortunately, even though I was working the business as a business I wasn’t pursuing it in a financially savvy way.  I got caught up in the prizes and extras that were offered instead of minding my money properly.  I worked at that business for four years before finally deciding enough was enough. After that, I did not believe I would do direct sales again.

When I started my first direct sales job, a family member started the same business at the same time. She stuck with it for many years and while I don’t believe it ever made her ‘big bucks’ she kept a steady stream of income coming in. She also started two other three other direct sales businesses (none related) and worked each one of them just a little bit each week. Using those multiple streams of income from several businesses (and working them smart) gave her a decent income.  There are people who make insane amounts of money in direct sales. And I’m pretty sure that most people that start a direct sales business have hopes of being one of those people. I recently read a book, The Four Year Career (that’s an affiliate link, one of the ways I make money with this blog 😉 ) that shared information from some of the highest earners in a variety of direct sales industries. The book also made a point of discussing that not everyone who starts a business will do much with it. One reason is that most people (called distributors, consultants or other terms depending on the direct sales company) will give up long before they succeed. Direct sales (also called Network Marketing) is not easy. But on the same token, it is not difficult. My family member did not have a dynamic selling personality. She is just a wonderful and honest person. She believed in the benefits of the products and shared them with people the same way she would share where she got her hair cut or where she bought a cute new dress. Believing in the product and wanting to share about it with others is the key to a successful business (whether direct sales, homemade bread, pastured chickens or online classes).

This past summer I did find a product offered by a company that I was impressed enough to consider starting another business. When I looked into how the company was set up I was impressed. You can read more about what I’m doing in this post, and see a picture that shows what I love about the product, but I’ll give you some basic info here. The company is debt free and encourages the distributors to also be debt free. There is a minimal investment up front and there is not inventory requirements or quotas. These are things that are important to me. And one other thing I really like is that the bonuses are not given out in prizes (like the previous company I was with) but in cash. That scored big points with me. Another thing that I really like is that this company’s structure encourages team work in ways many other companies do not. Also the company is still young with very view distributors and has interesting and eye catching products. Where I live (and in most areas) this is essentially a new product. I’ve talked with many people since I started this business and most have never heard of it.  I’d love to tell you more about this company if you are interested in starting your own direct sales business or would like to learn more about the product. You can email me or contact me on my Facebook page.

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Final Thoughts

Honestly, I’ve just touched on options for home based businesses based on my own experience and the experiences of people I know. Finding a need in your community (either physical or online) is the key to starting a successful business or two (or more). Multiple income streams can be a wonderful benefit to a home based business. Something else to think about; while some monetary investment will be required to start any business, not going into debt to start that business will give you flexibility. Do something with low overhead and start up costs. You can make money quicker and if you discover that your chosen business really isn’t for you, you can move on to something else without taking a huge financial hit.

Do you work from home or have you considered a home based business? What would you add?

Millie

4 thoughts on “Working From Home: Starting a Home Based Business

  • October 12, 2013 at 10:43 AM
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    Millie,
    Thank you for your article and sharing your experiences and thoughts! Yes, along with my new passion for blogging (which I have not made anything with thus far 🙂 ) I’ve had a home based business for 3+ years that I love because it fits in with being eco-friendly, non-toxic & easy to use, so I feel great about sharing Norwex cleaning products. In addition, I’ve been doing some organizational/ assistant work for someone. It is nice to have multiple revenue streams and the flexibility, especially when having children.

    Reply
    • October 25, 2013 at 7:07 AM
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      Hi Judy,
      I agree! I love the flexibility and multiple revenue streams. It works so well for us. Sorry for the delay in posting this comment. It got stuck in the spam filter.

      Reply
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